I immigrated to Quebec in 2008 and over the past few years I tried my best to learn about this new place that I now call home. I took french lessons and immersed myself in french conversations for better practice. But being dyslexic means that I have certain limitations that I can not surpass; writing in french is still excessively difficult for me, and sometimes I miss the obvious nuances in conversations. I also took it upon myself to learn the history of the place, not just by reading about it in books, but also by meeting locals and engaging them in conversations on the topic… History is better explained form the perspective of those whom have lived it. I learned about the Franco/Anglo divide, the October crisis, the Oka crisis, the quiet revolution, the sovereignty movement, and of course, putine, and osti, and calis and tabarnak. I fell in love Quebec… and now I call it my home.
In the process of discovering and learning about Quebec, I recognized several similarities and differences between it and all other places where I took up residence. Growing up in a war torn Lebanon, I have longed for most of my life to live in peace and far from the horrors of war. But war has many faces and many masks. And those masks can be subtle and quite as much as they can be disruptive and loud. I have been searching for a place to call home, a place to belong, and I have searched for a long time to find it. I am now a citizen. I pay taxes. I enjoy the same freedoms and liberties as everyone who lives here. Which is why it pains me to write this text. What I am about to write may be considered harsh, but it is sincere and it constitutes a major reason as to why I collaborated with several other people from 99%Media, GAPPA and Les Alter Citoyens to work on the feature documentary “La charte des distraction”
The Charter of disappointment
I can not begin to describe how I felt when I first heard about the charter of Quebec « values » (or what is now known as bill 60). Less so can I describe how I felt when a certain portion of the population suddenly started telling me, and other immigrants, that we are less equal to them if we do not speak fluent french and support the sovereignty movement or the PQ’s version of “laïcité”. How disappointed I felt to be told indirectly that, as an immigrant, I have no right to express my political opinions regarding Quebec, that I can never be a Quebecois because I do not share the « values » of the « dominant » segment of the population. How unnerving to find out that some people even think that I should not even have the right to partake in the democratic process of this geo-political entity, because of my immigrant origins. Sad it is that these people, whom are the loud minority among an otherwise very rational and tolerant people, cannot see or recognize their own bigotry and racist ideological thinking for what it is. That they are completely blind to the fact that they are, indeed, racist, is a testament that the government, and society in general, has failed to address mental health issues properly. The fact that these people, a small part of the population as they may be, exist and are allowed to be loud, vocal, and threatening, without recourse, is a symptom of a society that has lost it’s moral compass.
I do not blame the racists for the discomfort of all the immigrants they have been targeting, for these racist people are mentally ill to some extent, or have not had the opportunity to learn the difference between hate speech and the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is an essential and fundamental democratic right. But that right ends when it transgresses upon that fundamental rights of that of another person. Freedom of speech is not a license to spew hate and unjustified derogatory and false accusations against someone else. Hate speech is a violation of someone else’s rights as a human being. The person who can not differentiate between these two terms is either an unfortunately ignorant person, or a mentally unstable person. In either case, it is not their fault, but rather that, of both, society and the government, for failing to properly take care of these people. The mere fact that such people exist is proof on it’s own that the system has failed them. It certainly is not the racist bigots that I blame for the destruction of social ties between communities of different cultures here in Quebec, for it is not in their hands to be anything else other than their bigoted selves… because they do not know any better.
The silence of the blind sheep.
The ones to blame, the ones whom are worse than the racist bigots and trolls whom have become louder since the PQ government proposed bill 60, are the rational ones, who know and recognize racists for what they are, but whom have not spoken out against them because they believe that, although the tactic of the PQ is destructive and derogatory towards a certain minority segment of society, and thus the minority’s feelings, rights and freedoms are less important than the sorry attempt by the PQ to attain a majority government in the next elections by stepping all over them. The silent majority of the PQ supporters are the same people who vehemently defend bill 60 as though it were an absolute pillar of secularism, even when they themselves know that it is not, yet they defend it regardless of the facts, because the leadership of the party that they identify with told them to do so.
I have always contested that the reason why my country of origin, Lebanon, is constantly in chaos, is because the people there, although they agree that the political leaders are taking advantage of them, follow the will of the leaders as blindly as sheep would follow a wolf in shepherds clothing. As a result, Lebanon, which is the size of Cape Breton, is fractured into as many shards as there are political leaders. Each claiming to be better than the rest, each claiming that their political views are the essence of the “values” that make up all of Lebanon, when in truth their values are tailored to favor themselves, first and foremost, and then members of their immediate circle, with their followers coming in just before last, because those who do not follow them are always the “other” and therefor last. The Lebanese people know this fact inside and out. Yet they continue to give these leaders power by blindly voting for them, even when they know that a vote for the politician that they follow is a vote against common sense and against their dignity as human beings living in a supposedly “democratic” country.
Similarly, the most ardent of followers of political parties here in Quebec (be they the PQ, CAQ, or PLQ) vote for their party candidates regardless of that party’s platform or intentions, simply based on blind ideological principles, because they are just as brainwashed as the the Lebanese voters, weather they care to admit it or not. How different is that from a believer of a faith who blindly follows the very word, to the letter, of their holy book, priest, or leader?
Birds of a creationist feather
Take for instant the creationists. In spite of all the scientific facts and evidence to the contrary of what they vehemently believe in and insist on being taught at schools, try persuading a creationist that the earth is more than 3.4 billion years old, rather than just 10,000, and that evolution is a fact and not a supernatural fact-less attempt by someone thousands of years ago to explain, what then was, an unknown phenomenon that was beyond the technology and possible knowledge of that era to properly explain in any other way. A creationist is in essence a person who either willingly or or unwittingly refuses to accept the facts for what they are because either they are unwilling to let go of an ideology that does not fit their world view, or because their mind’s can not handle their faith being legitimately questioned, as it would pose an existentialist crisis for them.
Similarly, a political party ardent supporter, like a fanatic, refuses to accept the facts laid forth before them because it conflicts with their fundamental beliefs, legitimate or not. To accept the facts that are staring them in the face would be to accept that their identity and self-image are false. And that would shake the foundations of their very existence, and thus why they are too terrified to admit the reality of the matter, and why it becomes permissible for them to discriminate against anything that contradicts their fragile self-image, lest the »Others » realize how scared they are.
Their fear is justified. It is a terrible thing to loose one’s identity. But one does not continue to build an ivory tower on top of such shaky foundations. It is time to for those on top of that tower to realize that in-order to repair their foundation, they have to be willing to accept the reality of the matter and fix that foundation by accepting the help of the newcomers, who bring with them more than just their ostentatious religious symbols. However, it is not by refusing to speak out against the racists and the bigots that this will be accomplished. It is certainly not by refusing to listen to the arguments and concerns of the « Others » that this will be accomplished. It certainly will not be accomplished by blindly supporting the ambitions of a political party that has lost it’s moral compass. And here I do not just mean the PQ, but also the CAQ (which is the child of the ADQ, who originally capitalized on the people’s fear of the “other”) and the PLQ (whom are not any better with their misguided dirty political ambitions nor their attempts to turn a deaf ear to citizen opposition to their ill conceived ideologies)
A “secular” state with a Religious foundation.
Secularism is a foundation pillar upon which democracy stands. This concept is not in question. Without secularism the state can not be fair and impartial towards it’s citizens of various backgrounds and believes. What is in question though is the manner in which the PQ government is attempting to sell it’s misconceived idea of what secularism-of-the-state means to a specific segment of society that is considered to be the the majority of the population, excluding the more fair and inclusive definition that reflects the reality of the entire population. When a definition of secularism suddenly takes on the identity of a single and specific segment of society (in this case french, white and catholic) the definition of « secularism » is reduced to the equivalence of discrimination against that which-is outside of this narrow definition.
As long as a segment of society is going to be targeted and treated differently and less equal than everyone else, then we are no longer in the realm of democracy. In this case, anyone wearing an ostentatious religious symbol in the public sector will have their fundamental rights as human beings violated, especially when symbols that are small enough to not be considered « ostentatious », like a small cross, will be allowed. In any rational minded person’s book, this is called favoritism of one side over the other, which translates to one side being discriminated against. In this case the « secular » argument fails because of that very discrimination; some religious symbols will be band where others will be allowed. This alone invalidates the idea that bill 60 is, in any shape or form, a bill that encourages secularism. It can not be called a secular bill when one religion’s symbols, small as they may be, are favored over that of others.
Further more, if the PQ government’s proposal was truly secular, then it should start with the very institution which is supposed represents all the population; the cross at the national assembly is in itself an ostentatious religious symbol. Weather it is part of Quebec’s heritage or not is irrelevant. A religious symbol, is a religious symbol, is a religious symbol… it can not be called anything else… ostentatious or otherwise… To allow a religious symbol to remain a part of the national assembly is an insult to any definition of secularism that is being imposed upon the population as a true value of a fair and impartial democratic state. One can not dress up a wolf as a sheep and call it a sheep… it remains a wolf disguised as a sheep… let us call things as they are.
Dialog is important when it comes to resolving a conflict or a misunderstanding. However, some of the more fanatical followers of the PQ refuse to have an intelligent conversation over the matter. They ideally demonstrate the same kind of one track, pseudo logic, demonstrated by religious fanatics, like the creationists.
A PQ supporter, will have one sort of excuse or another, prepared to answer for the accusation that the PQ government’s bill 60 does not in any form or shape represent a real definition of secularism. And when they are confronted with the fact and figures, they, very much like the creationists, freak out and accuse the other side of being aggressive, of being a traitor, of being an outsider unworthy of having an opinion, of being anti-secular, of being a federalist…. or in my sorry case; a « Muslim Atheist » (if such a thing is even remotely possible)… all because they refuse to let go of this misguided attempt by a political party to win a majority government on promises of changes that it will never deliver upon.
Broken Promises and the illusion of democracy
How many promises have has the PQ government reneged on? does anyone remember how « bravely » madam Marois defended the student cause when the PLQ where in power?
Does anyone remember the promises made by madam Marois to resolve the tuition hike crisis through dialog with the students?
The February 2013 education summit was a joke. it ended just as quickly as it started. And instead of resolving the tuition hike issue, which students went on strike for 6 month to repeal, madam Marois announced an eternal tuition hike that was paired to rates of inflation, and subsequently suppressed the student protest that ensued just as violently as Charet’s PLQ administration.
Nor did the PQ stop there but they also went ahead and cut the education spending budget.
Does anyone remember how madam Marois and her colleagues campaigned on the premise that they will repeal the $200 healthcare tax introduced by the PLQ? Yet two years later we are still paying the extra $200. Rather than propose a progressive tax percentage that is fairer than a flat rate, as those making more will pay equal according to ones place on the “economic scale”, or rather than find a way to make all the bureaucracy more efficient, user friendly, and less wasteful because of mismanagement, rather than it being a question of efficiency of working staff, as the government would have us believe by spending large sums of money to introduce the “lean” system in to the healthcare network, and not only dehumanize public services, but also exploit healthcare by making them take on more tasks than is possible before they end up making a mistake out of physical and mental fatigue, the government has chosen to apply an unfair flat rate.
Does anyone remember how madam Marois promised that her administration will not give ground to the petrol companies and their proposed pipelines of dirty oil? Suddenly the pipelines are becoming more and more a reality and citizen groups opposing the project are being ridiculed and silenced. Meanwhile oil spills are beginning to damage Quebec’s environment.
Back in the days when the PLQ was in power, activists where protesting against cuts to social spending. Now under the PQ government these protests have become more pertinent than ever as activists protest against austerity measures and continued spending cuts for social programs, healthcare, education, and special needs children, while increasing tuition fees, day care fees, and hydro fees. Meanwhile madam Maroi seems to defy her own austerity logic by giving financial gifts and tax cuts to big corporations in addition to spending about 2 million dollars to promote an excessively partisan and electoral ploy of massive distraction in the form of bill 60.
Then, to add insult to the injury, in comes mr. Dranvile, the minister responsible for “Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship” and champion of bill 60 who famously declares at the parliamentary commission hearing on bill 60 that the one point that most people are protesting against, the one that bans religious symbols, is a non-negotiable point. How is this a democratic dialog if the minister of democratic institutions refuses to discus the very point that is causing all the the partisan turmoil? I really would like to know how mr. Dranvile defines the word democracy.
And somehow, instead of calling it what it is, PQ fanatical supporters adamantly uphold the ministers unfortunate understanding of the word democracy by legitimizing his unilateral, partisan and narrow definition of the word. A definition so narrow that it can arguably be called racist, even if that is not the intended intention, but if it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it smells like a duck, then it must be a duck.
Silence of the sheep can be deafening
So I have talked about the racists whom have surfaced recently, and I insist that they are not to blame because they are simply people who society and the system have failed in every possible way. I have also talked about the political parties (sure I focused on the PQ but the PLQ and the CAQ are just the same) and how they are contemptuous of democracy and do not work for the benefit of the people, but I also insist these political parties are also not to blame. Why? One might ask, are these political parties not to blame? well.. just like the racists are not to blame because the silent majority will not speak out against them, the silent majority of said party’s followers also do not speak up to denounce what they know to be the bad strategies and policies of these parties that are being highly partisan, and highly discriminatory against a portion of the public.
Political parties gain their power from the people that support them. when the people that support them remain silent over the party’s transgressions, it then is generally considered to be a sign of approval. that being so, the followers of said political party are therefor accomplices to the acts of the politicians and the ensuing results of those actions should they remain silent. This means that as long as the silent majority of the PQ followers refuse to speak out against the racists, and the bad policies of the parties and politicians, then they pretty much support them and empower them, and thus responsible.
Their refusal to even admit that the PQ government is wrong and to continuously defend the contemptuous acts of the PQ government as « democratic » and « legitimate » when a large portion of the population is strongly disagreeing and proving with facts and figures that the PQ government is in violation of peoples fundamental rights and liberties is one hell of a tragic comedy.
How on earth can the followers of the PQ continue to blindly agree that it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against part of the population in order to secure a majority government for the PQ, so that they can implement their political agenda with total impunity. you know… the agenda which is based on more austerity measures, higher tuition fees, tax cuts for the rich, hand outs to the corporations, the discrimination against recent immigrants from non European background, approval for the petrol companies to destroy the environment, the continued disregard for first nations people, and the erosion of democratic principles…. basically a continuation of the PLQ’s corporate neo-liberal polices combined with the right wing corporate ideology of the CAQ.
When the PLQ was in power, the followers of the PQ where up in arms against their neo-liberal policies. now that the PQ is in power… for some strange reason… the PQ followers seem to be perfectly comfortable that the same measures are being carried on.
I am lost for words…
What this basically means is that; if party Y does not equal to Z, and party Y is doing X, then from the perspective of party Z, X = bad, and as a result Y = X, which means Y = Bad. But when party Z is doing X then X=GOOD ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
OSTI DE CALIS DES TABARNAK!!!!!!!
take a deep breath……………….. exhale…………… moving on……….
Of Federalism and Quebec sovereignty
I find it tragically funny that, because I am vocal against the PQ government policies, I am automatically branded as a federalist?!? Nice… well.. personally I do not believe in nations, borders or any concepts to that effect. It is my opinion that the world is ONE and that borders are a tragedy history and that people’s inability to realize that our significance in this universe is excessively miniscule… that our time-line of existence in this universe is entirely minor…. that not only do I think “religion” as people understand it today, is a warped concept that resembles nothing of it’s original from…. due to the fact that charlatans took it upon themselves to take good concepts and transform them in to ideologies that benefit the greedy disposition of people who think they are “leaders” or “prophets”…… but that is a story on it’s own and this text is already long enough… but also that if we do not stop being selfish as individuals on a personal level or on a national or international level then nous some tous est tout fokes. This is my personal belief… and because this is what I believe, according to PQ supporters, I lack respect and I am a traitor who has no right to an opinion.
The fact that I do not believe in nations does not mean I do not believe in the uniqueness of Quebec. Anyone who denies the uniqueness of Quebec must be living in the twilight zone. In all of north America, Quebec is a very unique geo-political entity that I am very proud to be a part of and even more proud to call my home.
Unfortunately this uniqueness is being eroded. Not by the new comers (as the PQ would have us believe), not by some women wear a hijab or some men wear a turban, and it is certainly not being eroded by the fact that some people do not speak french.
The Uniqueness of Quebec is being eroded by those who define themselves within the narrow, singular definition of homogenic nationalism rather than a real Quebecois sense of open pluralism. Quebec’s uniqueness is being eroded by a government that refuses to look at facts and that takes decisions based on ideology rather than the solid factual studies of respected academicians. This so called “sovereignist” party is beginning to resemble more and more a certain federalist, anti-democratic party known as the Conservative Party of Canada.
Strange as it may sound, but the PQ is increasingly looking more and more like Harper’s Canada rather than the unique Quebec that I, an immigrant, have grown to love.
This is why I chose to collaborate with everyone from 99%Media, GAPPA, and Les Alter Citoyens “La charte des distraction”. And because we pronounced ourselves against the charter… our dear and beloved comrades whom are fanatical followers of the PQ government decided then and there… without proper facts or any sort of accreditation of being a proper authority on the subject matter… branded our collective work as PROPAGANDA?!?
The work we did for free… out of conviction… without accepting any funding from anything other than individuals with the understanding that they, the contributors, will have no say whatsoever in what we, the ones collaborating on the project, decide to do and say and express…. PROPAGANDA?!?
and the $2 million the PQ government just wasted…. after all the austerity measures they have introduced… after all the lame excuses they gave for failing to perform… after all the corporate welfare they handed out…. $2 million spent on promoting a PARTISAN charter of “Quebec” “Values”?!?!? WE are the ones who end up being accused of propaganda?!?!?
COMEON….. do the PQ followers really think that the general population of Quebec is that stupid?
take a deep breath……………….. exhale…………… moving on……….
Immigrants are Quebec citizens too.
Weather these immigrants came here hundreds of years ago or if they came here just recently, makes no difference. We all pay our taxes. We all live in the same territory. The same territory that has been colonized and taken from the original inhabitants of these lands; the people of the first nations, who’s opinion to the government means less and less as time passes. The first nations people whom are discriminated against even today, after all the empty public apologies by various governments that have come and gone. The first nations people, whom the PQ government has forgotten to include as part of their quest to define the identity of what it is to be a citizen of a territory called Quebec, just as the PQ government is refusing to admit that the identity of Quebec has evolved and that it also includes all the more recent immigrants whom consider themselves as citizens of this land we all share. A government that does not respect or work for all constituent citizens, is not a government that is representative of the people, and there for it is not a government that can call itself democratic or that is worthy of being in power.
Sadly, the PLQ and the CAQ have the same fatal flaw as the PQ… which leaves us citizens in limbo come election time because there is no real political party that truly represent or is willing to act in the interest of all citizens rather than personal and corporate interests. It is a sad thing that blank votes are not counted. In most countries, blank votes are a legitimate and democratic form of disapproval with the presented choices; instead of voting for the lesser of several evils, one can choose to vote for non and thus demonstrate that displeasure. Ideally, that would have been my next vote.